At this time of year, I always think about my days in class. I went to school long before the students. I had things to prepare. I made name tags. I installed billboards. I filled my plan book with the activities.
When I was teaching kindergarten, I was aware that this was the student’s first experience with school. Often, I sent them a letter. In my letter, I gave them something to bring to school on their first day. Sometimes it was a coloring sheet. Other times I asked them to bring something to share – the requirement was that it should fit in their pocket.
These ideas put them at ease. They had other things to think about except that it was their first day. He also provided an idea for a bulletin board. I did child labor that first day. You’d be surprised how good it felt to see their work on the board.
My years have never been the same. I taught the students so that the year would go as they wished. I remember one teacher telling me that I was making the process way too difficult. She told me that every year, on a certain date, she did the same thing. I would not have survived in this mode. I needed the change as much as the students needed it.
I loved my job. The year I moved from sixth grade to kindergarten, several of my students expressed their concerns to me. They wondered how I was going to adapt. I assured them that everything would be fine. I had already taught kindergarten.
Several girls volunteered to help me move my things. They stayed after being fired for the year and carried things to the kindergarten room. I think they had a great time doing it.
When I retired, I was teaching kindergarten. It’s always been my first love. I liked starting work habits. It was much easier to give them a good start than to have to correct bad habits.
Really, I enjoyed all the levels I taught. I spent several years in first grade. Six years in second grade. I completed a year in third grade. Spent four years in fourth grade and four more in sixth grade. My last assignment was kindergarten. I spent more than ten years there.
I subscribed to several teacher magazines where I got lots of new ideas. I was always looking for new ways to do things. Oh, I followed the prescribed methods, but I found other ways to make them interesting and challenging.
When asked what the students remembered the most, I was told that they liked the special days I had planned. We cooked. We tested theories and made graphs. We have experimented and written about them. I taught them to take notes. We used a real newspaper for our news.
When the Berlin Wall came down, students were curious to find out why it was so important. I had to teach some history to explain it. When the Olympics happened, we incorporated geography lessons to see where the athletes were coming from. We followed the medals won by the different countries.
We participated in Book-It. It was a reading incentive program sponsored by Pizza Hut. The students won personal pan pizzas for reading the books I needed. At the end of the year, if everyone fulfilled their conditions, the class won a pizza night. That day was special. I made sure that my children read a lot of books.
The Bibliobus was in service when I was teaching. The staff always laughed when I showed up. They knew which author I read to children because the children asked for these books. I really liked reading to children. I’ve passed on children’s classics that I’m sure many of them would never have read on their own. My choice to read to them goes back to my own days at school. I will never forget when Miss Clifford read “Bambi” ours.
I could go on and on. I had so many plans. Most of them were successful, but every once in a while I would jot down in my sketchbook, “Don’t do it that way again!”
When the school bells ring, I remember! Although I don’t regret the way things are today, I’m glad I was there in the good old days!
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pennsylvania. Contact her at [email protected]